Brett Hoffmann's not very popular around here at the moment. Or rather he is with me but not with Farmdoc.
I just got hold of Brett's new book - his second thriller involving Australian Wall Street analysts, Stella Sartori and Jack Rogers - and I can't put it down.
'Are you ready?'
'Did you hear what I said?'
‘We’re running late.'
'Can you put that book down for a minute!'
Well, you get the picture.
About two years ago, when Brett's first book, The Contract, came out, I worried that I wouldn't like it and wouldn't know how to tell him. I was so relieved that I loved it. This time I didn't worry. I knew this novel would be at least as good as its predecessor. I think it's better.
I was engaged from the first scene, lulled into a state of mellow enchantment by the prose. A postcard photographer is hovering in a helicopter above Nice. 'It wasn't a hot day but the sun had the freedom of the sky...' How lovely, I thought, and then wham! an explosion rocks both me and the book and I was hooked.
That explosion destroys a private jet carrying the heir to the Aretino empire, and in the aftermath of that and other disasters to befall the family and its businesses, the Aretino's bank calls on Stella and Jack to investigate why the family is losing money.
The Aretinos are an ancient Italian family with an ongoing link to the Order of St John and an involvement in Formula One racing. This is a case that calls for skill and discretion, which makes it ideal for Jack and Stella’s new consultancy. But a series of murders shakes everybody, and Jack and Stella find themselves under surveillance, their own lives now at risk. There is obviously a dangerous conspiracy behind all these events, but they have no idea who’s responsible.
Jack and Stella’s fight to save themselves and discover the truth is told in spare prose, with just the right details chosen to set the scene and portray the characters. The settings and background are all obviously meticulously researched. We are whisked back in time to ancient Malta and then forward to the Grand Prix at Monza. The book’s not called The Race for nothing!
The story is intricately plotted, with seemingly loose threads picked up and woven back into the story in ways that I for one didn’t see coming.
I could feel my heart thudding as I sped along narrow mountain roads or battled alongside Stella (not that she needed my help!). The ending was unpredictable enough to surprise me but at the same time it felt very satisfying. I was sorry when the book finished but now I’m left wondering about Jack and Stella’s relationship and what they'll get up to next. I know Brett's hard at work on the next novel in the series: The Cure.
The Race would make a great Father day gift. And if you buy it at Dymocks they have a buy The Race get The Contract free. How could you resist?
‘Ok, Farmdoc, what was it you wanted? Farmdoc? Farmdoc?...Oh bloody Brett Hoffmann and that infernal book! Can’t you read it later?’